Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction)

Part 8 (forget the Roman Numeral thing)

The moon is moving on to half full and I’ve been thinking about orange blossoms and making swimming pools.

They are a kind of girlie martini. One has to have the proper chilled glass. Otherwise the light doesn’t work properly. Blue Curacao is the secret. Oh and when you’ve had enough of making the perfect Caribbean beach water colored drinks you can swirl in straight cranberry juice. Not only is it good for those pesky bladder infections it makes this great iridescent purple color.

Last time I was at the salon I splurged with some guy’s money and bought the B&B shampoo I love so much. I think it smells like an Orange Julius but my stylist thinks it smells like figs. All I know is that I love the way my hair smells after I wash it.

I’ve been kind of a mess lately and sometimes I get confused about who I am and yesterday I was at the Farmer’s Market carefully picking out a couple of small pears, a beautiful organic orange pepper, a few perfect tomatoes and a solitary peach.

That peach was amazing; it had about four layers of flavor. There was this high sour note that made me squinch up my face and there was this cinnamon like spiciness and then two different layers of sweetness, a quick hit that came just after the sour and this deep thrumming sweet that one wanted to go on all night.

It was funny, I had my purchases in a string bag, I’d been following this woman around the market who had my hair to see if she was me but she wasn’t, she was wearing jeans I wouldn’t be caught dead in, actually I don’t wear jeans except when some guy absolutely insists but so I gave that up and wandered off and some old woman who had seen a lot of drinking days asked me if I had any money for food.

I said, “No, but would you like a pear?” She was a bit surprised and said, "I don’t want to take from your own personal food stash…”

I said, “It is a little bruised but I bet it is really sweet.” I gave her the red number just bursting with juice. I think we were both happy there for a moment.

Bobby says he wants to come over and watch me shave my legs. I wonder if I can talk him in to taking me shopping tomorrow? I found this store downtown that sells some Eileen Fisher pieces I covet.

Fall is in the air. A nice wooly sweater to snuggle up into would be so very comforting.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Bit Slippery

Rose is feeling a bit slippery and shy right now but will be back shortly. Stand by.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction)

Part VII
God, the crescent moon!

Back in the days when Christian and I went to every poetry event in town thinking we might meet someone interesting to talk to about poetry, someone we liked and admired, we’d go to these bookstore readings with reasonably decent poets where the only people who were there besides us were family and friends.

Or we’d go to these packed readings by really really bad poets.

Once we went to a poetry reading at Powells Books, which in and of itself is indeed a rare occurrence. Powells is not a big supporter of poetry. They do have a lively trade in used poetry books though.

Anyway, I think it was a Copper Canyon event. This one guy was supposed to be something like the last of the living Beats or something, much praise, many flowery gushy phrases.

First though we had to suffer through a guy who screamed at us. Now this happens on the open mic circuit all the time, attention seekers who scream at the audience to get and maintain attention. But this guy; appeared reasonable, the room was packed and still he went and got all stentorian on us. The plastic folding chairs at Powells are extremely uncomfortable and jammed way too close together. It was horrid.

Christian was out smoking and missed the whole thing. The rat.

But that wasn’t the main event, no; the main event was this old unattractive guy with the apparent ability to make connections. His ace in the hole, and it was a good one, was that he had managed to get a most beloved local Italian teacher to stand next to him with her shirt unbuttoned almost to her waist and read his dreadful tripe to us in Italian.

The audience was charmed. The audience was full of a bunch of idiots that never buy poetry anyway and were holding their breath until they could let it out again on their next trip to Tuscany. For the food, you know. That one special tomato, that unique sun kissed olive oil.

Forgive me; I digress.

Christian was there for that and he made the best suggestion that I must must follow up on if I ever get a featured reading of my work again. I get the most handsome young man I can dredge up and have him stand beside me in tight pants and a billowing white shirt and after I read my poem in English, he can read it in French!

Michel would do it I am sure, he’s a little older than I’d imagined but there is this other Iranian guy here, handsome and a gifted poet with the most to die for voice.

He belongs to the local Baha'i Poetry Brigade.

We published his poem about Mulberries in our little journal. He’s married with a bunch of kids so we’d have to hide them.

I still laugh when I think about doing this. A little something for everyone.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction)

Part VI
So what can I say about Michel?

He eats his rice with plain yogurt on top with a soupspoon when he needs comfort food. He speaks seven languages, often a mix of them in one sentence. He buys his shirts in Italy when he is having a manic phase. He loves to sit in a café on some ancient piazza with his shopping bags and drink coffee and pretend he is Italian. Some days he believes it himself.

It is all his fault I write poetry. He sent me, online, just after we met a most beautiful poem he said was translated from the French. It was very romantic of course and I just assumed it was some famous poem and he had forgotten the attribution in haste in wooing me.

It was three years later when he told me he had added some stanzas, and read them to me that I was flabbergasted (such a lovely old fashioned word) to find that he had written it himself. In French, of course.

The first poem I wrote was about his father, a painter and film director I’ve never met him, as he lives in Düsseldorf now. The poem is about blue roses, a repeating image in Michel’s early conversations with me.

The poem just jumped out of my pencil as if it were a lightning strike, fully realized it was written without any conscious attention or intention. The good ones still arrive like that, unbidden. Oh baby.

Last time I saw him he had acquired a copy of “the Red Violin” and we watched it spooned in bed. He knows how I feel about Joshua Bell.

So depressed I have often wondered how my man muse managed to hold it together to take me out those first few times. He is masculine enough to admit he has the soul of a woman. I love him for that but mostly I love him as the messenger of the gods that delivered in that mix of affection and despair, my passion, and imparted it body to body as one often does an affliction.

One from which, painful as it often is, I wish never to recover.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction)

Part V
I don’t know why sour smelling people make me think of table manners.

When I walk to the main library like I did yesterday I walk by this Persian restaurant. There are always a fair amount of single guys in there eating continental style. Personally I am a snob about table manners, if a guy eats with his fork in his right hand it is unlikely he’ll be eating out with me again.

Talking about Poetry Downtown the other night got me thinking about the time I went there by myself to see the politically correct, exceedingly nice Naomi Shahib Nye. This was a few years ago when the series was still at the impossibly uncomfortable Wieden+Kennedy.

I got there early picked a primo seat on the big bleachers to the side and started to read and mostly people watch. The whole world of the local traditional poetry “scene” was there. Anyway, some middle aged to oldish woman sits down next to me. Plain. People around started getting all atwitter and I figure, she must be important but who the heck can she be because I know everybody locally.

People are all saying hello and this person starts fundamentally holding court.

Yes you may bow to me now. I haven’t a clue who she is. Just a few minutes before the reading is supposed to start I can’t see a thing because all these other really plain looking middle aged and old looking women who have no idea how to dress want to say hello or ask her breathlessly how she is.

Then, “it” happened.

This woman, looked nice enough I suppose like some school teacher or something asks, excuse me, could she get by me for just a moment, just a second really? I have good manners, I said yes. She sits between me and the important person. Only there is a problem.

There isn’t enough room.

So the bitch, literally sits on my leg so she can be close to this woman. And it wasn’t for a second. It was all the way into the introduction of the featured reader.

It was only after the reading that I found out that the person sitting next to me was Tess Gallagher, “Oh look at me, I may be not be attractive, but I hooked Raymond Carver, Tess Gallagher.

Or as I now call her, Tess Gag Her.

I was thinking I’d been a bit hard on her these last few years so at the library yesterday sitting next to a grown man that smelled like sour milk I looked at her sixth book of poems, “Moon Crossing Bridge” from Greywolf Press.

In one stanza in a poem chosen at random, “Souvenir” she uses the words alabaster, vermillion, azure and black. In one bloody stanza! In her sixth book of poems.

Vermillion! Christian had a long talk with Veehan some while back about how he absolutely cannot use words like vermillion in a poem. In a painting fine, but not a poem, please. When you do that it means you are trying to be poetic as opposed to being poetic.

I’ll give you an example. There are places that are poetic.

I have a photographer friend that works in a church, an old church and today she snuck me up into the bell tower. Oh my God, all dusty with this ancient steep spiral staircase there is a life size silver headed clown in an alcove on the way up. The music director used to take kids up there at Halloween to scare the bejesus out of them. There is just one bell, the oldest in the city made from a civil war cannon. On the first landing with the raw stone and old carved wood there is a broken chair and the rope with which one could ring the bell.

Now that is poetic! I could feel my creative juices getting all riled up just being there. But hey if you want to read… “I thought his moon-life had lifted everything from reach, even roses, those vermillion climbers that were a shout at hope, up and up my haggard trellis…”

My not haggard at all trellis has a guy who smells sweet, looks better and has perfect table manners to hang with tonight.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction)

Part IV
“We like our poets better when they are dead—especially our women poets…” Says Erica Jong in her new memoir that I am enjoying even though it got slammed on Powells. I got it at the library.

I’m not saying it is a good book, the letter to Sylvia Plath is embarrassingly bad but you know the thing is Jong is a poet. She’s got the goods.

Anne Sexton, the Anne Sexton said to her, “You have the gift—and with it comes responsibility—you mustn’t neglect or be mean to that gift—you must let it do its work. It has more rights than the ego that wants approval.”

Well that is the core of all the trouble in contemporary poetry now isn’t it? The collective ego is so huge and so grasping and we all want approval so desperately we choke and never say bad things about anybody even though inside we feel we are being flayed alive.

Jong talks about how Plath wrote her poems outloud. Well, yeah! Have you ever read a Plath poem outloud? I have, more than once and there is just flat out right on the edge guts and risk taking in those poems!

Try it sometime. Get some black leather boots and find an audience and stand there and read “Daddy” to a mixed group and see if it doesn’t change you forever. She’s got the beat!

Rebecca Wolff, the publisher of “Fence” magazine says, "This is one of the things that makes this little unspoken-word poetry world so compelling to those of us who are stuck inside of it: It truly is arcane… It’s a secret-magic-invisible world.”

You know what that is? It is a world for cowering wuss want to be, no talent, no discipline, I need to make six figures teaching poor hapless suckers that will never publish a thing that has meaning and screw everything in sight if you enjoy that kind of thing total and complete wimps. They have it scoped out.

How about we take this crazy woman, make her our idol and say that what she does is poetry and then we’ll get all the teaching jobs in the country and we’ll make sure no one who has guts and talent and a unique voice ever gets published again.

We have a disciple of the IOWA School teaching now at PSU, (her mother is an absolute delight) that is so afraid of the idea of reading her work to an unpredictable audience that I have seen her stand behind a post and tremble when watching one of her students attempt it.

Plath didn’t get published in The New Yorker until she was dead. Unlike our current Crazy Lady Poetry Queen, Jorie Graham, Plath actually could write.

I do have to say one thing about Graham though, she is a damn good anorexic!

So is Glück. When I saw her at Poetry Downtown a few years ago I had a slip so bad, I didn’t eat for days. (Eating disorders are contagious after all.)

Get a clue! It takes everything one is, from the fingers to the toes, all the ugly inside of us to write great poems. If you don’t have the guts get out of the game and leave us some frickin space to breathe.

I have to go eat dinner now. I promised myself I would.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction)

Part III
Call me crazy but I really like classical music. I think a guy who knows and values Arvo Pärt is sexy.

Once, Christian and I met with a guy he knows from the chess circuit to see if we wanted to take some of his poems for our little poetry magazine.

His name is Veehan Ree, we took him to the art museum first cause we spend a fair amount of time there getting ideas from the ancient stuff and then to a coffee shop and the first poem I read had a reference to the Estonian composer and my heart did a little flutter.

Veehen, I think is mixed race, a Quadroon, European American, like he should be in some dusty Louisiana room with spittoons and filtered light. Quiet, cute, great manners, boy that was a change.

That was the art exhibit with the Bixies. Those half dog half horse protector deities that guard Chinese tombs. We were all shy. I have a date coming up at the Portland Art Museum, I wonder if the Bixies are still there?

Toady I listened to St. Paul Sunday Morning and they had Hélène Grimaud on playing this wonderful piece "Fantasia on an Ostinato," John Corigliano's homage to Beethoven's Seventh. Oh I could have gone swimming naked in that work and never come out!

She talked about how she read and was influenced by the German poet Novalis. Christian says he is considered the first of the first romantic poets, very mystical. It says here he studied mining. Weird.

He described romantic poetry as "the art of appearing strange in an attractive way, the art of making a subject remote and yet familiar and pleasant."

Don’t tell anyone but I think that is the story of my life.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction)

Part II
Christian says you all might want to know about where I live. Like the princess I often am, I live in a ballroom.

Seriously, I don’t have much stuff and I live in a big ballroom on the third floor of a rambling old house in NW Portland. I love the light. I live for the light and the beautiful old floor. The place still has a carriage entrance (now it is a sun room) and sometimes when it is the middle of the night and I can’t sleep for crying or I am up writing or having sex I can hear the music and see the minuet.

I have a ballet barre, yoga mat and mirror and my bed and some storage chests but that is pretty much it. I do have my own bathroom at the top of the stairs with a claw foot tub. You might as well know right up front I have “issues” with food so it is a good thing I share the kitchen. I am not bulimic; thank the gods. I decided early on that purging is just way too gross, although I have plenty of friends who indulge. Even guy friends. Gross!

I suppose I should tell you about Christian, speaking of guy friends. No one gets it about me and him. He is more than twice my age, still good looking in a worn overused sort of way. I met him at a café. Coffeehouse really, he goes there to play chess but I met him at a poetry reading there. He knew right away, even when I was reading the worst rawest crap that I had talent.

Pretty much all the guys say that but he really meant it, I could tell and he has read everything and knows about everything literary. I mean who needs Google? I’ve got him. He’s a mess as a person, but I don’t care about that or the fact that he sometimes creeps my friends out because he isn’t like anyone else, because he believes in my worth as a poet, unreservedly.

He gives me big shit when I mess up or rely on fragments or tired images. He pushes me to write better, better, best. I push that in me too so we have the same agenda. My family, my friends, they don’t understand poetry, especially contemporary poetry and they want to be supportive but would rather I take up Sky Diving or Mountain Biking, some passion they can understand rather than this weird art form that causes me so much pain.

David Remnick, he’s the editor of The New Yorker, he said in an interview I read recently when asked about The Decline of Literature in American Culture”…

“I think poetry’s a more serious and obvious problem. Well, let me put it this way about poetry: I totally realize that we are limited in what we publish every week—two or three poems—and as a result we don’t have a governing aesthetic. There’s no one school that dominates, no two or three poets that dominate…”

No governing aesthetic! I’d say, other than the only decent poems we are going to publish are those by poets who are presently dead (Elizabeth Bishop for example) or those in translation…

Oh, I’m sorry. I used to aspire to get published in the New Yorker. What a fool I was! I’d be embarrassed to be in those pages now. Yeah, me and Mr. Chinese Silk Robe, stupid eagle poem Henri Cole. Yuck.

I do think David Remnick is kind of cute though, for an older guy. I’d serve his gelato any day. Even if he couldn’t tell the difference between a good poem and a dog if they each snuck up behind him and bit him on opposing cheeks.

Okay, now I am getting crude, time to get the heck out of here. I have exercising to do before work.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Rockrose Moon (A Serial Fiction)

Part 1

Of course I have to start off with the moon! Last night when I woke up it was huge and yellow hanging there like I was living on some tilted plane, slightly off. I write poetry and somehow or other the state of the moon is always near to the surface of my subconscious. When you meet me, you can ask, “How’s the moon today, Rose?”

You’re more likely to get a direct answer that way, than asking me how I am doing, I often don’t know… and I have a tendency to lie to myself. So, if you asked, I’d be lying to you too. Most times folks don’t ask. They just look at me with this soft stare and smile. With the older guys, and my world is full of older guys, as I work at the Gelato store across from the famous bookstore and everybody that wants to be a writer goes there…, with the older guys it is a soft stare and a half smile.

The women look with longing or hatred and sometimes with a mix of both. Ron, our boss (it is an open secret), doesn’t hire anyone who isn’t pretty and looks good in black.

Beth and Angie, work with me. Beth is really a model and Angie, well, when she can manage to make things work she fronts a band. She doesn’t tell many people this but her favorite instrument is the clarinet. She should have been a man in a Swing Band but instead she was born this ethereal willowy slip of a thing. She sure has a pretty smile.

My parents are dead. It was sad when it happened but I am pretty much over it. The point is, you won’t hear me whining about complicated family arrangements over the holidays like my friends. The amount of time my friends spend complaining about their moms! At least they have one to complain about.

My holidays are always a mess based on what guy I am seeing and his kids from the first or second marriage or if the guy is closer to my age dealing with his parents. P-l-e-a-s-e.

I have a crazy genius brother I haven’t seen in years. He is either a street person by now, or a Zen priest (he used to teach meditation) or some rocket scientist on a secret project. (I actually met a real rocket scientist once, Asian guy, a sweetie.)

I have this aunt. She thinks it is her job to take care of me. I complain about her like my friends complain about their moms, but it is weird because, you know, she isn’t and even though she has this great life and a nice husband and a good job, she is unhappy. That’s what makes me crazy most... but anyway, the point of all this is that I am basically on my own.

And now that you know that, I so have to go!

I’ll be back, when I can.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Blame It On Michel

…or Twenty Two Reasons I Haven’t Been to Yoga Class In A Week

1. Michel Gondry, I started watching “The Work of Michel Gondry” on DVD last night and highly recommend it. It is five hours of his stuff on one DVD that you turn over like we used to do with records.

2. I have been working at a level of intensity that is impossible to sustain and I am feeling strong resistance to having anyone tell me what to do.

3. I mildly burned the bottoms of my toes on the hot sand at the river last Saturday and the bottoms of my big toes are doing their weird annual summer splitting thing again for the third year in a row. What is up with that? It makes the down dog uncomfortable to sustain.

4. Low energy, I have been exhausted all year starting with the temp job from hell in January that just sucked the life force right out of me and never really recovered.

5. I wrote a poem that was inspired by seeing an abandoned farm house from the window of a train a few weeks back.

6. I went on a way fun urban day hike with my brother-in-law out of “Portland Hill Walks” by Laura O. Foster. We chose #2 and my legs still hurt two days later! It was worth it.

7. My big male cat Sam has been encouraging me to stay home by sitting in my lap and purring.

8. Above mentioned cat also encouraged a restart of my meditation practice by behaving as mentioned.

9. The light in the evenings has been fabulous.

10. There are signs of fall everywhere, from dry leaves to spider webs to the biggest pumpkins in the crop down the street in years!

11. Some hawks or owls introduced themselves into the neighborhood and the huge raucous flock of crows that pass through here every morning and night has abated to create this marvelous silence to soak up.

12. I’ve been practicing at home on my own, not challenging myself but doing enough to stay open and less than stiff.

13. A brief foray back into the Blogosphere! Yay!

14. The war in the Middle East. Whenever I am procrastinating or feeling blue I always throw world conflicts into my excuse bag as the weight of them expresses the weight I feel inside.

15. A chance to send emails to neglected friends and exs.

16. The NY Times. I always find inspiration there, always.

17. Getting my Laundry done. It always has a big L for me.

18. Catching up on my sleep. I have literally been sleeping ten and eleven hours the last three nights. How lovely to have the chance to do that.

19. Practicing being instead of doing. A skill I have so not learned yet.

20. Playing with the cats. I only think it fair that if I found myself downstairs all last week playing with the six neighbor cats I was watching I could darn well play with my own.

21. Hanging out with Andrew, who has recharged his own blog In the Library this week now that he is not working.

22. Enjoying the rare opportunity to just be home with no schedule or commitments or the driving compulsion to accomplish anything.

Back to work tomorrow, better get cracking at doing nothing for the whole rest of this precious day!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Racial Profiling

I am a cat person. I was born with the perfect imprint of a cat’s paw on the bottom of my right foot. I am presently taking care of my two and the six strays the neighbor who is down in front has collected over the last few years while he is off camping.

Someone gave me a Great Dane puppy when I was seventeen. A very strange thing to do for a cat person but they thought that a big dog would protect me and when I was seventeen I was more in need of protection that most kids. I was fundamentally on my own.

I mention this because I, no matter how out of character, have experience with large purebred dogs. The neighbor below me moved in with a pit bull puppy last year. Right away I started not being okay with this and in the search for ways of being okay with having an isolated, angry status conscious and money hungry person living below me with a sweet but untrained massive dog I came across Malcolm Gladwell’s amazing piece Troublemakers on racially profiling pit bulls in The New Yorker.

I could barely read it, so ingrained are my prejudices against this breed, but I did read it and right away it changed my way of thinking about the dogs and confirmed something I always knew.

It is not the dogs that are the problem. It is their people.

I then went on to read his profile of the “Dog Whisperer”, also a remarkable piece that completely changed how I think about and relate to dogs on a day to day basis.

This lead me to read his newest book, “Blink, Thinking Without Thinking” which starts out with a description of a statue that the Getty bought a few years back that turned out to be a fake, which got me to read his original book, the one everybody knows about, “The Tipping Point.”

I was so surprised by "The Tipping Point" because I thought it was this big sort of treatise on political science or public policy or something because I used to watch Charlie Rose and listen to Fresh Air but no, it is this absolutely delightful book (he has become a better writer since) about things that matters to us all. How we really are and how we work as opposed to how we think we are and would like to be. It is just full of stuff to get one not taking anything for granted including the fact that one has always thought of oneself as a cat person.

My takeaway from the book in a big way is also something I have always known without admitting to myself. That is that I am a true child of my times and my circumstances and that who I spend time with and how I spend it are tremendously important in who I am and how I react when faced with say… a longhaired pumped up guy in a trench coat being dragged around by an unruly pit bull.